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Research Grants

NIEHS/EPA Children’s Environmental Health Centers Center for Study of Neurodevelopment and Improving Children's Health following Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure (NICHES)

Institution: Duke University
Center Director: Susan K. Murphy, Ph.D.
Project Period: June 2013 – May 2018

Research Questions

Project 1: How will secondhand smoke exposure affect children’s brain development?
Project 2: What impacts will secondhand smoke have on cognitive and emotional dysfunction in children?
Project 3: Are epigenetics an important link between environmental tobacco smoke and ADHD?

Keywords: ADHD, Epigenetics, Neurodevelopment, Secondhand Smoke


Secondhand smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), has a major impact on children’s health. Children are even more vulnerable than adults to the negative effects associated with ETS. This center will investigate the relationship between ETS and brain function in children. Researchers are aiming to explain how ETS increases the risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) though epigenetic alterations, or alterations to gene expression that can lead to disease. Results from this center may result in new treatments for ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Project Abstract and Annual Reports: Neurodevelopment and Improving Children's Health following EtS exposure (NICHES)
Center Website: The Center for Study of Neurodevelopment and Improving Children’s Health following Environmental tobacco Smoke exposure (NICHES) Exit

  • Research Projects

    Project 1: Tobacco Smoke Exposure, Epigenetics and Cognitive Deficits in Children
    ETS has been associated with negative effects of brain development in children, including ADHD. However, there is limited research on the exact mechanisms behind this association. This project is characterizing the relationship between ETS exposure and ADHD. Results from this center may contribute to new interventions and treatments to improve brain function in children exposed to ETS.

    Project Leaders: Bernard Fuemmeler, Ph.D., Duke University

    Project 2: Mechanisms of Neurobehavioral Dysfunction from Developmental Nicotine & Tobacco
    Exposure to ETS can impact brain development during childhood. Researchers are comparing the effects of tobacco and nicotine on attention, memory and emotional function. This study is helping to determine how ETS can impair brain function, even into adulthood.

    Project Leaders: Edward D. Levin, Ph.D., Duke University

    Project 3: Epigenomic Consequences of Early Life Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure
    Early life exposure to ETS is associated with negative effects on brain development, but the mechanisms behind this association are unclear. Epigenetic changes, which are changes to gene expression but not changes to the gene itself, may be the link between ETS exposure and ADHD. This project will investigate if early life exposure to ETS causes epigenetic changes that result in ADHD.

    Project Leader: Susan K. Murphy, Ph.D., Duke University

  • Publications